Jon Hein knows TV. In the late 1990s, he coined the phrase "Jump the Shark" when he founded the site of the same name. Since then, he's written about television everywhere from The New York Times to TV Guide. In his column for Primetimer, he shares his thoughts on what's new and good on TV and the shows on his radar for the coming week.
Hope you all had a fabulous Mother's Day. This week, it's all about the ladies.
My wife Debbie and I have been digging into Mare of Easttown, Cruel Summer and The Secrets She Keeps recently. Their plots aren't the most original, so the acting needs to be top notch to pull these stories off.
Happily, all three of these programs deliver on that promise. Here’s a look at the actresses who’ve been keeping us glued to the screen.
Kate Winslet, Jean Smart, Julianne Nicholson - Mare of Easttown (HBO)
The best acting on TV is happening in a small Pennsylvania town where young girls aren't faring too well. Kate Winslet is fantastic as the lead character living in the most depressing town in the United States. She has mastered that Eastern PA accent in a place where everyone, and I mean everyone, is dealing with some major issue.
Her mother (played by Jean Smart) provides comic relief, but is also a tragic character in her attempt to keep her daughter on some kind of path. It's hard to decipher who the parent really is in this relationship or frankly, in their entire house.
Julianne Nicholson had me since Boardwalk Empire. Few actresses convey grief as well as she does, and there's plenty to go around in Easttown. The storyline is depressing, but the acting is anything but.
Chiara Aurelia, Olivia Holt - Cruel Summer (FREEFORM)
I pegged this one a few weeks back as a hit. Each episode taking place on the same date in 1993, 1994 and 1995 is a bold storytelling choice. There's no way to know who's telling the whole truth, courtesy of the two excellent lead actresses.
The transformation of Chiara Aurelia as Jeanette Turner has been fun to watch. Three different years, three distinct versions of the same gal with plenty of mystery packed in. The looks come off very natural, and her morality will likely remain in question until the end of the series. Can't get enough of the most hated person in America.
Olivia Holt has the more difficult role as the kidnapped Kate Wallis. The blonde from the family who has everything is much more complex than she appears to be at first. And her calling out Jeanette is already etched in our collective memories.
Laura Carmichael, Jessica De Gouw - The Secrets She Keeps (AMC)
This is my favorite "oh, I'm just watching this because my wife wants to" show at the moment. Edith from Downton Abbey is obsessed with very pregnant Meghan, who is about to have her third child.
Laura Carmichael has to be having a blast playing the twisted Agatha. The tragedies in her life put her in a strange mental space when it comes to caring for kids. She's awkwardly charming and vicious when she needs to be.
Jessica De Gouw is the mommy blogger with her own set of issues, including her cheating husband whom I just realized is playing Gordo on For All Mankind. Her vulnerability as an exasperated concerned mother rings true.
These actresses are absolutely crushing it week after week. Can't wait to see where they end up when each season finale airs.
(Shows Premiering That I'm Not A Fan Of But You Might Be!)
Little People: Big World (TLC) – Season 22. Yup, it's still on. Premieres Tuesday.
High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (DISNEY+) – Season 2. Yup, it's still on. Drops Friday.
Pride (FX) – Six-part docuseries focused on the struggle for LGBTQ+ civil rights. Debuts Friday.
Fall River (EPIX) – True crime docuseries about a series of Massachusetts murders. Premieres Sunday.
MTV Movie & TV Awards (MTV) – Leslie Jones hosts the first night of MTV's irreverent annual kudoscast. Sunday.
THIS WEEK'S PICKS
Drug problems, Wanda, and laughs at any price...
Crime of the Century (HBO)
Monday May 10th and Tuesday May 11th 9pm
Alex Gibney takes on big pharma.
This epic two-part, four-hour, HBO documentary touching on everything affected by the opioid crisis is set to air on back to back weeknights. Rather than focus on the addicts, Gibney tackles the entire system and all that has led to our current state.
You'll think twice about what you take for "pain relief" after learning how these drugs were initially marketed and end up as a form of legal drug pushing. Bank on master documentarian Gibney to get under the lab coats and expose truths in those jagged little pills.
The Upshaws (NETFLIX)
Wednesday May 12th
How long have we been waiting for Wanda Sykes to hold court on another sitcom? The hysterical comedian plays the sister-in-law of Kim Fields (yes, Tootie) who is married to Mike Epps, and their working-class family in Indiana is just trying to get by.
Wanda co-created the series to focus on a family with real issues happening in middle America. Dad wants to be a better husband and father to his family, but has always been a bit of a mess. Leave it to Wanda to clean things up as only she can and provide the laughs. Watch the trailer.
Hacks (HBO MAX)
Thursday, May 13th
I'll take all the Jean Smart I can get.
In Hacks, she plays Deborah Vance, a long-time comedian who some feel might be getting too old for the comedy scene. Ava, a young talented writer, is sent to Vegas to liven up Deborah's act and prevent her being replaced by someone younger. The real-life analog to Deborah is Joan Rivers, and Jean Smart makes the character shine.
Hacks illustrates what life is really like in the world of stand-up comedy. It's harsh. It's brutal. It's funny. And you have to handle getting roasted if you're even thinking about roasting somebody. Many comedians are angry people — they just have a funny way of talking about their pain.
If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.
Get vaccinated. Stay healthy and safe.
Jon Hein is the creator of "Jump the Shark" and author of three books. Follow him @jonhein on Twitter.
TOPICS: Mare of Easttown, The Crime of the Century, Cruel Summer, Hacks, The Secrets She Keeps, The Upshaws, Chiara Aurelia, Jean Smart, Jessica De Gouw, Julianne Nicholson, Kate Winslet, Laura Carmichael, Olivia Holt